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Bulls not so cavalier against Cleveland
by Sam Smith
Posted on Nov 12
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There are a lot of sentences with “Derrick Rose” and “injury” that are no laughing matter. The one Monday late in the Bulls’ 96-81 pulling away victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers made you smile.
Because this time Rose was joking about it.
Rose sustained what he and the Bulls afterward termed a minor strain in his right hamstring, apparently on an impressive transition drive late in the game that split the Cavs’ defense and put a knife in their spirits. It was part of 9-1 run featuring Rose and Mike Dunleavy that broke open the game after the Cavs got within 78-75 with 4:55 left.
“Right away,” Rose said with a smile when asked if he knew it was a hamstring issue and not a knee problem. “I think I’ve been in the training room long enough, around trainers long enough, to know everything about my body.
“It’s irritating,” Rose added with a laugh, “but just getting them (injuries) out of the way early. I should be fine.”
Rose laughing and smiling. That’s good.
The Bulls blowing a 13-point third quarter lead to see the Cavs pull within one several times in the fourth quarter. Not so good. But never surrendering the lead and pulling away down the stretch to get to 3-3. Better.
“The thing is you can never let up,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau of another midgame hiccup as the Bulls, who led from the mid first quarter on saw a 53-40 lead dissipate quickly midway through the third quarter with several inside Cavs scores.
The Cavs’ strategy appeared to be to use size to overwhelm the Bulls. Andrew Bynum got a surprise start, often playing along with center Anderson Varejao and mixing with burly Tristan Thompson.
Once renowned for their size, teams are starting to believe they can attack the Bulls with size like the Pacers have.
The Bulls were led by another solid game from Carlos Boozer with 17 points, seven rebounds and two blocks, 16 points from Rose, who outplayed rival Kyrie Irving, who also had 16 points, but several late after the game was decided. Irving shot five of 19. Dunleavy had his best game as a Bull with 15 points off the bench on four of six shooting, two of three three pointers and five of five from the free throw line.
“Dun did a great job,” said Joakim Noah, who had 10 points and six rebounds and ran about six miles trying to front Bynum. “He’s the ultimate professional. He’s been around the block and you knew that was going to happen.”
You pretty much figured with Taj Gibson as well, and the reserve forward was terrific. He led the Bulls with eight rebounds, three offensive. He added nine points, but also three blocks and constantly helped and steered Cavs players out of the middle and the lane and into jump shots. Gibson’s aggressive play fighting off the 7-1 Bynum and 6-11 Varejao was impressive as well with his switching defense on pick and rolls that constantly kept Irving out of the paint. Rose also did an excellent job defending Irving.
“They’re so tough,” Gibson nodded about Varejao and the 275-pound (at least) Bynum. “Thibs kept telling me to switch out on Kyrie to make that play, stay in front of him. But that makes it tough on our guards. We’ve got tough guards.”
It was a tough team effort against a good, if not great, Cavs team that’s defeated Brooklyn, Minnesota and Bulls irritant Philadelphia. The Bulls outrebounded the taller Cavs and kept in check their tricky guard play. The Cavs had been having success with a three-guard group of Irving, Dion Waiters and Jarrett Jack, but they were a combined 11 for 38.
“Mentally and physically they just did what they wanted to with us,” said Cavs coach Mike Brown, noting 20 Cavs turnover and a Bulls 14-11 edge in offensive boards despite the size disadvantage.
“I said before we’re not in a panic mode,” said Luol Deng. “We’re still working on playing 48 minutes. I don’t think we’re quite there. We’re good enough to win a game like tonight because our defense played well. There are still things we need to get together. The more we play together the better we get.”
Though it was a lopsided final margin, it was an equally uncomfortable home crowd as the Cavs at least twice had chances to take the lead in the fourth quarter. So there’s still not a lot of margin of error with this Bulls team with Rose not finding his offense quite yet and the team still not shooting well, 41 percent Monday and four of 16 on threes to hang onto 28th place in the league.
Which was why it was vital and a relief for the team to see Dunleavy get going. Dunleavy, who hadn’t played much in the fourth quarters previously, played the entire 12 minutes. He had a team high 10 fourth quarter points as Thibodeau desperately looked for scoring as the team apparently wore down in that third quarter. It seemed the kind of stall that has come in just about every Bulls game this season. Against a team like Utah you can survive. The Cavs are much better.
So Thibodeau stayed with Dunleavy along with Rose and Kirk Hinrich to provide better ball movement and activity, and the Bulls had 24 assists on 34 baskets. Rose and Hinrich each had seven assists and Rose was without a turnover. The Bulls had a Thibs-acceptable 11 turnovers and pushed the Cavs into 20 and taking advantage with 29 points on those turnovers. Cleveland could get just nine points on the Bulls’ turnovers. So at least the Bulls responded to the bungles by rushing back to defend.
Dunleavy as well as the Cavs tried to take advantage of his defensive issues by having the man he played in the fourth, either Waiters or Jack, try to isolate. But the Bulls’ help and rotations were so good the Cavs shot 31.6 percent in the fourth quarter and those two were zero for four. Irving’s frustration trying to penetrate the Bulls defense finally overwhelmed him in the fourth as he hoisted up 11 of his team’s 19 shots as they raced to defeat.
And in big part thanks to Dunleavy’s shooting. The big sequences were a Dunleavy three on a crosscourt Rose pass to make it 81-75 with 4:34 left. Rose then made his 75 foot dash after a Gibson rebound with 3:39 left that gave the Bulls an 83-76 lead and was apparently when Rose strained/tweaked/annoyed his hamstring.
“I really don’t know (what happened),” said Rose. “I remember running down the court, really didn’t feel anything until I came down. Then went back to the bench (as the Cavs called time out). They were asking me about it. Coming back in, there was a play where someone knocked the ball out of bounds (good Rose defense on Irving funneling him to Gibson who blocked his shot). They said I wasn’t moving good enough to be on the court. They subbed me out.
“It had to be on the drive,” Rose thought. “Stuff happens. I’ve just got to play through it and come back healthy. I should be ready (for the Raptors Friday). It’s nothing big at all. I’m still able to walk around, move around the way I want to. Just a little sore.”
“He’ll be evaluated further,” added Thibodeau. “When he gets reevaluated tomorrow (Tuesday), we’ll have more information. It appears to be minor.”
Rose then went out for Hinrich with 3:15 remaining and the Bulls leading 83-76.
What time is it, kids!
It’s Mike Dunleavy time!
The veteran swingman drew a foul and made two free throws. Then Irving missed a three and Dunleavy got the rebound. Deng missed, but so did Waiters as Deng switched onto him and Dunleavy got the smaller and less dangerous Jack.
But those players have a disadvantage against the 6-9 Dunleavy and he made a nice baseline cut to get open for a 21 footer to make it 87-76 Bulls with 2:10 left.
It became desperation time for the Cavs, who began firing off threes as the Bulls closed it out with a Deng floater and a dunk after a Dunleavy steal—-Mr. Fourth Quarter is doing it all!—and a Boozer driving three-point play as Boozer also, as he often does, helped the officials yelling, “And one!”
And it was that one guy who has been coming along who came up big this time.
“I’m getting there,” said Dunleavy. “It’s an easy group to feel comfortable with and get along with. But you’ve got to go out and perform. I’m getting more comfortable here in United Center (shooting).
“I think early on,” said Dunleavy, “I was so concerned with running the right plays, doing the right things, being in the right place on defense. I was not thinking of making shots at the clip I normally make them and then you get to point where, ‘All right, I’ve got to start shooting well.’ It’s not as easy as saying it. But I feel comfortable with these guys and what we’re trying to do.
“I wouldn’t say (I was) pressing,” said Dunleavy, coming in shooting 38.7 percent overall. “There’s a certain amount of coming into a new environment, group, especially this one with such high hopes you want to support your teammates and do well for them. I’m someone who feels I can come in the game at any point and expect myself to make shots. I like to think I don’t need to be in rhythm. That helps, but you never know when you’ll be called upon. If I’m only getting two, three, four shots per night, I need to make them. That’s the way I see it. I’m not concerned with how many I shoot but how many I make. You always stay ready. I’ve been in this league 12 years. No matter how much you play, you have to be ready when your number is called and do the best you can.”
Similarly with Rose, who gave one of his more detailed explanations of the difficulties of coming back the way he has after a major injury and time off.
“You look at my process, what I went through,” said Rose. “I normally don’t play pickup in the summer. You throw an injury on top of that. I haven’t played basketball in so long. Having the ball in my hand, going into a move or shot just feels a little bit weird now unless it’s a set shot because I’m used to them because I was shooting set shots the whole time (working back). Just getting that rhythm and a groove. Like I said, it’s going to be scary (when I do).
“My confidence is getting higher the more I play,” Rose added. “My teammates are allowing me to play the way I normally play, and that’s to attack and put everyone on their heels and to give them the ball and have them do something great with the ball.”
Rose was doing that well to start in the game noted for the first Rose/Irving meeting. It failed to match media expectations with two low scoring, defensive oriented teams.
The Bulls finished the first quarter with amazingly balanced scoring in a 20-17 lead with every Bulls starter with four points. Who says it’s a one-man team? There were some wonderful plays as the Bulls moved the ball better, a fancy Boozer pass to Deng for a dunk and Rose drawing three defenders and Noah slipping in for a slam dunk. The Bulls had half their points inside.
They began to open up the game in the second quarter against Cavs subs with Gibson making a strong post up move for a score, Jimmy Butler getting on the board with a drive as he’s struggled with his shot and Rose beating Irving to the basket over screens.
The Bulls led 45-36 at halftime. But the Bulls’ shooting touch suddenly seemed to be with winter gloves as they hit 35 percent in the third quarter while the Cavs pounded the ball inside against Boozer and Noah. The Cavs hit the Bulls with an 8-0 run late in the third and headed into the fourth trailing just 64-60.
An Irving three cut the Bulls lead to 66-65 early in the fourth. But Rose responded with a short jumper and the Bulls pounded the boards for four offensive rebounds in the next two minutes to frustrate the Cavs before Dunleavy began to find the range.
“We’re a work in progress,” reiterated Noah.
And it seems still one with Derrick Rose.